BIOGRAPHY

Maphryono

ST.  BASELIOS SHAKRALLA

Maphryono of the East (1748-'64); Entombed at Kandanad Cathedral


 

 St. Baselios Shakralla

Maphryono St. Baselios Shakralla (Shukr Allah) is one of those illustrious Syrian fathers who came down to guide the church in Malankara during an acutely turbulent time and died here. It is more than 200 years since the Holy Father attained his eternal rest. Yet his memory is etched in golden letters in the history of Malankara Church.

The Maphryono (Maphrian) was born in the city of Aleppo in Syria as the son of Deacon Musa al-Qasabji.  Under the Malfono of the local church, he studied Syriac, becoming proficient in it and also in Arabic. After completing the studies in religious sciences, he become a monk and later was ordained a priest. He was of commendable deeds and character. His knowledge was extensive. A book on the catechism written by him in Arabic is kept in the Church at Aleppo. In 1748, he was consecrated Maphryono for the church in Malabar under the name Baselios by the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East Moran Mor Ignatius Geevarghese III. The book Mor Baselios wrote about his journey to Malabar and the subsequent events, in Syriac, gives an insight into the happenings of the time. His mission in Malabar was to validate the consecration of Mor Thoma V as the Metropolitan of Malankara Syrian Christian Church and to overcome the confusion then prevailing here. His sincere efforts had a positive impact, which helped a great to build up confidence among the faithful. After serving the Malankara Syriac Christian Church for 13 years, His Beatitude died in AD 1764 at Mattancherry in Cochin and his mortal remains were entombed at the Marth Mariam Jacobite Syrian Church, Kandanad on 22nd October.  

 

Events that led to the arrival of Mor Baselios Shakralla Bava

In 1688, Mor Thoma IV became the chief of the Malankara Syrian Christian Church after his consecration as Metropolitan by Mor Ivanios, the Patriarchal delegate who came to Malankara together with the Maphryono Mor Baselios Yeldho (Kothamangalam –1685).

Later Mor Thoma IV administered the Church for 40 odd years.  During his tenure, in 1708, a Nestorian Bishop Mar Gabriel came to Malankara and tried to spread heresy. Because of the compulsion of the situation, Mor Thoma IV wrote to the Patriarch asking for the assistance of more Metropolitans. Unfortunately the letters had not reached the destination because of political situation; there are evidences that one such letter reached Amsterdam and another is still there in Vatican library.  Even before ordaining a successor, Mor Thoma IV died 0n 24th March 1728 and was entombed at Kandanad Marth Mariam Church.

Just before the demise of Mor Thoma IV, some of those assembled there, fearing intrusion and intervention by Nestorian Bishop Mar Gabriel, felt it necessary that a successor to Mor Thoma, should at once be consecrated and suggested Thoma Kathanar, a nephew of Mor Thoma for the high office. The bedridden Mor Thoma was informed of the suggestion and also that he should lay hands on his nephew. The strictly Orthodox Mor Thoma, conscious of the consecration of his predecessors and of himself, flatly rejected the proposal. Meanwhile a section of priests assembled there declared that Fr. Thoma has been consecrated as Mor Thoma V with the blessing of his predecessor, but this was actually without the consent of Mor Thoma IV.  It is reported that several of the Kathanars (priests) left the scene in protest and there aroused a division in the Church.

A vast majority of faithful also kept aloof from the new Mor Thoma saying that he is not a validly consecrated Metropolitan.  They even submitted their complaints before Dutch authorities. As Mor Thoma V himself was aware of the invalidity of his said ‘consecration’, he appealed to Antioch for delegating prelates to 're-consecrate' him. In 1746, there came Mor Ivanios Yuhanon of Amid, send by Patriarch Geevarghese III and he enjoyed a hearty welcome from Mor Thoma; but unfortunately the friendship didn’t last long. Mor Ivanios sternness in flushing out the remnants of the Latin rite, led to his breaking of images in certain churches. Due to his inflexibility in matters of faith and practises followed by the Church, he became unpopular among some; even Mor Thoma V could not find favour with him.  Besides, he had procured no authority to re-consecrate the native Methran, which so exasperated Mor Thomat hat he renewed his application to Antioch praying for deputation of authorised delegates to re-consecrate him. Even in the midst of such uneasiness between them, both Mor Thoma and Mor Ivanios jointly applied to the Patriarch for a Primate and Mor Ivanios also personally requested the Patriarch to send Ramban Shakralla of Aleppo, after consecrating him as Maphryono. These letters were despatched through one Deacon Antonios who had arrived in Malabar on commercial enterprises. Meanwhile an agreement was also made with the Dutch East India Company, by which Mor Thoma promised to pay the Company the entire expenses incidental to the voyage of delegates in one of the Company’s ships.

  Sacred tomb of Maphryono Mor Baselios Shakralla Bava

at the Marth Mariam Cathedral, Kandanad

(photo taken before the recent renovations)

 

Arrival of Maphryono Mor Baselios Shakralla in Malabar

Deacon Antonios was successful in his mission. He submitted the appeal of Mor Thoma before the Patriarch of Antioch and entrusted the letter to Ramban Shakralla. Thus in Chingam 1748, the Patriarch summoned Ramban Shakralla from Aleppo and consecrated him Maphryono, and also promoted Mor Ivanios of the St. Behanan Monastery, in the title – 'Mor Gregorios' of Jerusalem.

Through his letter of 15th Chingam 1749 the Patriarch asked Mor Thoma to receive the Maphrian warmly. The Maphryono took with him 18 valuable volumes of his own library and holy vessels, worth Rs.3000/- and another set of 40 volumes presented by the Patriarch, besides the Holy Moroon and oils and relics of the saints.  The Maphryono had with him the Patriarchal authorisation for consecrating Mor Thoma with the title Mor Dionysius and a pastoral staff, bishop’s cross and SUSTHATIKON.

In those days the Dutch had entered into an agreement with the Raja of Cochin on 22 Meenam 1663, which says that the Raja had no authority over his Christian subjects and no new taxation might be levied on them without the approval of the Dutch authorities and all Christians should be under the care of the Dutch, who could punish the Christian culprits. Under such a situation the Mor Thoma had no other alternative other than requesting for help of the Dutch authorities and they in turn agreed to bring the Primates from Antioch on condition that Mor Thoma meet the fare.

Mor Baselios Shakralla, accompanied by Mor Gregorios, Ramban Yuhanon of Mosul diocese (Iraq), Corepiscopa Geevarghese, Kassisso Yuhanon and four deacons started from Aleppo (Syria) and via Baghdad reached Basra and thence arrived at Cochin on 14 Medam (April) 1751. 

 

Problems between the Dutch and Mar Thoma V

Being informed of the arrival of the Maphryono and party, Mor Thoma, staying at Pallikara, sent some priests and leaders to receive the dignitaries to Kandanad Church. But contrary to the agreement reached earlier, neither Mor Thoma nor anyone authorised by him appeared before the Dutch authorities to clear the accounts which came to Rs.12000.  It is said that Mor Thoma never expected so heavy and exorbitant amount as travelling expense. The Dutch, insisted that only after clearing the accounts, would the party be set free. The Maphryono too did not have enough funds with him, as he had been informed earlier that the money would be paid here.  Earlier Mor Gregorios (in 1665) and Mor Baselios Yeldho (in 1685) had come to Malankara without any financial help from Malankara Church.  Mor Baselios Shakralla too, if he were informed earlier, might have come prepared like his predecessors. The Dutch insisted for payment, but Mor Thoma continue to abscond. The Dutch in turn detained the ‘hostages’ with them and petitioned in Court for recovery of the amount. Mor Thoma remained silent. He shifted to Rakkad – farther away from Cochin.

Anyhow the Dutch were magnanimous enough to host the Maphrian and party and also to release them, a little later. They reached Kandanad on 14th Karkadakom 1751. Again Mor Thoma kept aloof.  From Rakkad he went to Kothamangalam Cheriapally and the Maphryono reached Kothamangalam Valiyapally – a distance of barely one furlong.  Mor Thoma again evaded and went to Kuruppumpady and thence to Niranam in the South, and the Holy Maphryono came to Kayamkulam. At last they met at Mavelikara, but matters remained as before. In the mean time under severe pressure from Dutch authorities, Mor Thoma was finally forced to close the pending payments for which he had to sell some Church properties.

Whatever be the difficulty, Mor Thoma could have settled the issue much earlier; those fathers had come in response only to his repeated prayers to the Patriarch and they had done him no harm.  {But certain modern writers hail Mor Thoma V as a freedom fighter of the Indian Church as he refused to pay the pending amount due to Dutch authorities; this is utterly ridiculous.  There are many records available which clearly explains that he was always faithful to the Holy See; in one of his letters to the Dutch in Cochin, he says; “we honour, the Patriarch as our Supreme Head,” and when he was enticed by the Dutch to join the Protestant church, he wrote that he could not reply on the matter, without the permission of the Patriarch}. 

Click Here for translation of the autobiography of Mor Baselios Shakralla, describing his journey and the question of the passage of money.  The original Syriac manuscript was in the possession of late Mr. E M Philip Edavazhikkal and he published the translated version in the Church History he wrote in 1908.

 

Establishment of the new Syrian church at Mattancherry

It was Mor Baselios Shakralla Bava during his stay at Mattancherry, built the Syrian Church located there, which at present is not in the possession of the Jacobite Syrian Church.  The plot of land was acquired with the permission of Cochin Raja for Rs.475 and His Beatitude constructed a church there at his own expense.  Residing there, he worked hard to reaffirm the Apostolic faith of the Syrian Church.  He changed many a practices then existed in some churches, like veneration of statutes which was introduced as a result of the Portuguese influence of the 16th & 17th centuries.  He encouraged the parish priests to marry and at the same time Celibate priests were disallowed to serve in parish churches as per the Syriac Christian tradition.  

On 30th Medam the Maphryono consecrated Ramban Yuhanon, who had accompanied him from Antioch as the Metropolitan of Malabar under the title ‘IVANIOS’. The consecration was at the Kandanad Church.  After posting Mor Gregarious at Kothamangalam and Mor Ivanios at Kandanad the Maphryono began a tour of 14 churches in Travancore, beginning from Kottayam, and returned to the north early in 1753.  He ordained many priests, deacons and Rambans'.   

 

Last days of Mor Baselios Bava

Towards the end of Mor Baselios Bava’s life, a reconciliation was brought about between Mor Thoma V and His Beatitude; but before the accomplishment of re-consecration of Mor Thoma V, Mor Baselios passed away on 20th October 1764 at Mattancherry. His mortal remains were brought down to Kandanad and was entombed at the Church where his anniversary is celebrated on a grand scale.  The Malankara Church celebrates the Dhukrono of Mor Baselios Shakralla Bava on 22nd October with great fervour and is the main 'Perunnal' (festivity) of the Kandanad Marth Mariam Cathedral.

 

Canonization of Maphryono Mor Baselios Shakralla

         http://www.SyrianChurch.org/Pdf/MorBaseliosShakralla.pdf

 

Marth Mariam Cathedral at Kandanad where the mortal remains

of Maphryono St. Baselios Shakralla Bava is situated

(renovated in 1998)

 

Main Source:  

        Indian Church History  published in 1987 by Malankara Malpan Very Rev.(Dr) Kurien Corepiscopa Kaniamparambil

 

Other References:

      The History of Syriac Literature and Sciences,  Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem I Barsoum